Satana Deberry has unseated Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols in a race where she pushed for significant and rapid criminal-justice reform.
Deberry, executive director of the N.C. Housing Coalition,won 48.8 percent of 31,159 votes cast in the Democratic primary Tuesday.
Echols, who was seeking his second term, received 40.6 percent of the vote, followed by defense attorney Daniel Meier with 10.7 percent.
“We were right that the people of Durham want criminal-justice reform, and they are ready to get about that work,” Deberry said.
While she making her rounds at the polls, people told her they were voting for her because they wanted more than gradual change, she said.
“They wanted real change,” she said.
There are no Republicans running for the district attorney, so the winner of the primary is all but assured on becoming the county's top prosecutor in November.
The candidates’ discussions have centered on reducing the number of people in jail on low bail and increasing second chances for certain non-violent offenders.
Deberry called for a culture change in the prosecution of crimes by addressing racial bias, seeking unsecured bonds for certain offenses, decreasing the prosecution of teens in the adult system and increasing restorative-justice programs.
Echols touted initiatives he and others have been working on such as expanding pre-trial, diversion, amnesty and restorative justice programs that have reduced the jail population and increased opportunities for second-chances. Echols has also said his opponents have overstated the power of the DA, not taking into consideration that many of the programs they seek require cooperation from law enforcement and other agencies to be effective.
Meier called for making the judicial system more efficient and fair.